Archaeologists to reconsider origins of industrial era obesity and cancer by scanning Museum of London skeletons

By Ben Miller | 24 April 2015

Research begins on 1,500 skeletons from medieval and industrial-era London

A photo of a close-up of a dark brown human skull with its teeth visible
© Museum of London
Some of London’s most important skeletons will be digitally x-rayed and scanned in a new archaeological investigation linking “man-made” diseases with the industrialisation of the city.

More than 1,000 adult men and women from the industrial revolution period, as well as 500 more from the medieval metropolis, will be used in quest to find out how the era affected the population at the Museum of London’s Centre for Human Bioarcheology. The latest clinical techniques will help to create an interactive online database for the public.

A photo of a series of three brown skulls lined up next to each other in profile
© Museum of London
“The most tangible evidence we have for the long-term consequences of the industrialisation process upon us is, quite simply, written in our bones,” says Jelena Bekvalac, the leader of a research team who plan to begin their work immediately.

“Modern health trends have seen a shift towards increasing life expectancy but we want to look again at what are often thought of as ‘man-made’ conditions like obesity and cancer.

A photo of a woman showing a human skull to a young man inside a museum archive
© Museum of London
“Given today’s more sedentary lifestyles, far removed from the physically active and natural existence of most of our forebears, there are some big questions about the origins of these diseases and how they relate to the modern environment.”

Bekvalac hopes to publish her team’s findings as soon as possible and deliver a series of lectures about the work.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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Regarding your statement that 'cancer is manmade', please see the article below from _IFLS_ in which it is stated: "Cancer has existed as long as humans have.... While it’s certainly true that global lifestyle-related diseases like cancer are on the rise, the biggest risk factor for cancer is age."
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